James opens with words we probably don't want to hear. This week we begin reading the brief Letter of James and are slapped in the face with a called to ὑπομονή "hupomone." Some translations call it patience, some perseverance. No matter which translation you use, it is supposed to include an element of cheerfulness.
Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters,when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Can any of us do this? When we are going through times of real trial, can we step back from the trial itself, extract ourselves from the center of the maelstrom, and see how this can lead to our perfection.
The gospel raises the bar even further.
When we are suffering some great trial, if we can see some sign of God's presence, we find it easier to endure. But what does Jesus say in today's gospel?
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
So we are supposed to cheerfully be patient and persevere, and do it with no signs of God's presence? Yep, that's it. We call it faith, trusting God even without visible signs.
James is repeating a theme that runs through the scriptures. The road to perfection goes through fire. There is no painless perfection. And we are called to be perfect.